Why Niles, Buchanan, and Three Oaks are Great Places to Live
Berrien County is justly famous for its frontage on Lake Michigan. From New Buffalo north and a little east, the coastline is impressive. Its bluffs and dunes, rocky crags and sandy beaches, offer many leisure-time activities. There are public beach areas and parks and the coastal area includes attractive communities, high end shopping, and expensive homes.
No location within Berrien County is more than a 25 minute drive from the four-season panorama the Lake provides. Running east from the entryway to Michigan boundary line.. The Highway extends to and beyond the eastern border of the County. It features a corridor of land, residences, and affordable real estate.
Niles, Buchanan and New Buffalo
Three population centers grace this route. Farthest east is Niles (population app. 20,000); then proceeding west 5 miles is Buchanan (population app. 6,000); and then another 10 miles to the Village of Three Oaks (population app. 2,000). You now are only about 5 miles from the starting point at New Buffalo.
These three communities shore the geography of the rest of the County. There is a good reason for this: The ice ages, especially the last, the Wisconsin glaciation, scoured the entire region, its ebbs and flows carved out the many rivers and lakes, the moraines and plains, as well as the rock outcroppings and gentle hills.
The climate along this southern corridor is a favorable one. In spring it fosters the growth of grapes, spring flowers, and morel mushrooms; in the summer it offers nearly perfect conditions for boating, swimming, and fishing; in autumn the spectacular colors of fall foliage; while in winter there is skiing, ice fishing, and mile after mile of snowmobile trails.
The Educational Climate
The educational climate of these southern corridor communities is also very favorable. The school systems of Niles, Buchanan, and Three Oaks (River Valley) are separate but share in that excellence. The dedication of teachers and administrators is supported by the concern of parents as well as the general public. Athletic facilities, activities and the spirit of competition are encouraged but not to the extent of overcoming academic achievement. Both Lake Michigan College and Southwestern Michigan College maintain branches that serve Niles and Buchanan directly. Universities like Andrews (Berrien Springs), Notre Dame, and Indiana University at South Bend are close by and offer cultural events, entertainment venues, and outstanding education and research.
The historic significance of this southern tier runs deep. The first humans in the region were nomadic. They are likely to have followed the northern movement of the Wisconsin glacier, stopping long enough to have developed distinct cultures, but still dependent upon the movements of game and the changing seasons.
Hunting and, fishing remain prominent activities in this region—deer, turkey, small game, trout, salmon, pike, and panfish, are plentiful. If you are very fortunate, morel mushrooms may be found in the spring. Fortunately, both the wooly mammoth and the mastodon, hunted by the first humans in the region, became extinct!
The chemistry these three communities have in common is the atmosphere of the small town—its trust, friendship and close family ties—with easy access to Chicago, Detroit, South Bend, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids. Niles, Buchanan and Three Oaks offer the best of many different worlds.
Here are just a few of the special features of each community.
Niles, Michigan is called the “City of Four Flags” for good reason. This rich heritage is now commemorated at the Fort St. Joseph Museum in the downtown area. The museum houses and displays exhibits and artifacts from the establishment of that Fort in 1691 by the French. As much commercial as military, the French maintained the loyalty of the Miami and Potawatomi Indian tribes in order to promote and to protect French trade, mostly furs, over that of the British. The British, however, took control of the Fort in 1761. It is argued that too much alcohol, incompetent commanders, and bad policies toward the Indians left the region under more and often less British control. In fact, even a Spanish raiding party captured the Fort in 1781, raised the Spanish flag, and looted what they could. They left after one day. The Treaty ending the American Revolution granted the area to the colonies and was soon followed by settlement and the establishment of Niles. Thus, the “City of Four Flags.”
Niles today is replete with historic buildings of elegance and style. The St. Joseph River cuts through the city and its banks include much public space for walking, running, or just meditation. For the very energetic, there is a will-constructed and well-maintained skatepark. Many festivals and events are held in these public areas: among them, the Niles Riverfest, Bluegrass festival, Apple festival and Parade, and the Hunter Ice festival with its professional ice sculpture exhibition.
In 2007 Niles was listed by Forbes Magazine as the best Small Place for business in Michigan. Later that year it was also chosen the Michigan Main Street Community of the Year.
Buchanan, Michigan, though smaller than Niles, exhibits the same hospitality as the larger city. It also shares with Niles the pleasures of the St. Joseph River. The bluffs and hills overlooking the river are of outstanding beauty. Consider a fall day toward dusk, with its leafs of many colors, and you can almost ‘see and feel” the American Indian campfires from long ago.
Downtown Buchanan celebrates its founding in the 1830’s by updating its historic past. Pears Mill, established in 1853, continues to show visitors the operation of a water-powered flour mill on McCoy Creek. Alongside it is the Tin Shop, dating from 1865-66. Today it is a civic theater offering live performances from June through September. Within easy walking distance there is also the Buchanan Commons—an open space used for band concerts, picnics, and a farmers’ market. Just a short distance father is the Buchanan art Center, while in the opposite direction is the magnificent McCoy Creek Trail.
Just outside Buchanan is the world-famous Fernwood Garden and Nature Preserve. Open year-round, it offers beautiful gardens and tranquil forests. The Nature Center, Clark Art Gallery, Fern House, and a fine dining room enhance the glorious scenery open to the visitor.
Buchanan shares with its smaller neighbor, Three Oaks, entry to some of the best grape growing and wine producing regions in the United States. Lemon Creek, Tabor Hill, and Round Barn are wineries that produce high quality products as well as offering tours and wine tasting.
Three Oaks, Michigan
Three Oaks, Michigan rests upon a gently-uplifted “hill,” a kind of “oasis” in the rich agricultural land around it. The centerpiece of the village is the large Warren Featherbone Factory, dating back to the late 19th century. Warren had the entrepreneurial vision to substitute turkey feather quills for the whalebone stays used in the corsets of that age. Time has been kind to Warren’s imagination. The factory is still intact and open to the public. It also features a wine shop, a stage and theater, a lawn and garden store, and now, the opening of more that a dozen loft apartments.
Three Oaks boasts a unique festival in June. It is the annual Flag Day celebration. It is billed, properly so, as the world’s largest Flag Day Parade and Festival. Floats, marching bands, shopping bargains, competitive events and yes, lovely ladies—all combine to make this a popular crowd-pleasing event.
For the most part, however, Three Oaks gives its residents a sense of openness. Spacious parks, public areas, and playing fields extend out into fields and forested regions. Visitors and residents can also extend their mental senses on the basis of two venues, the Vickers and the Acorn. Vickers offers first-class cinema featuring top Oscar nominees and award-winning foreign films, while the Acorn features live performances from opera, to jazz, popular singers, and local jams.
These and many other activities are proudly supported by Radio Harbor Country (WRHC), a non-profit, all volunteer station, that continues to offer music of every kind—rock, blues, swing, classical, and modern sonic—but also features many “one of a kind” shows. The motto of the station is appropriate: “One hundred watts of power, 1000 watts of community.” New talent and shows are always welcomed.
The old and the new come together in Thee Oaks. Gone are the three massive oaks that gave rise to the name of the Village in the 1850’s. Both the Featherbone Factory and Dewey Park, however, continue to take the mind back in time. In 1899, President McKinley commemorated the patriotic support of “Three Oakers” for the War of 1298 by contributing a cannon Admiral Dewey had taken from a Spanish warship. The park today is the annual center for a premier bicycle event, The Apple Cider Century Race. It draws a crowd of over 7,000 cyclers, many of whom take the longest, a hundred mile, ride through many of the scenic back-roads of southwest Michigan.
The small downtown area is filled with small shops, many of them mindful of the past but featuring up-to-date products. The list includes a bookstore, an old-fashioned drug store, two taverns, numerous antique stores, a gun shop, post office, an elegant library housed within a National landmark bank building, an ice cream shop, art galleries, and a number of delis featuring speciality food items. All of these offer patrons the friendly service we usually associate more with the past then the present.
The communities of Niles, Buchanan, and Three Oaks are in many ways distinct; however, together they form a whole that is more appealing than the sum of its parts. One very early pioneer who traveled this land called it “a bit of God’s paradise on Earth.” Without boasting, it still remains “pretty darn good.”
Last Updated Thursday, July 5th, 2012. The properties on this web site come in part from the Broker Reciprocity Program of the Member MLS’s of the Southwestern Michigan Regional Information Center. Information Deemed Reliable But Not Guaranteed. Berrien Property.com does not display the entire SWMRIC Broker Reciprocity database on this website. Copyright 2012 Southwestern Michigan Regional Information Center, LLC. All rights reserved.
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